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The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life
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The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life

3.42  ·  Rating Details ·  1,648 Ratings  ·  148 Reviews
In a book that is certain to ignite an explosive controversy, Herrnstein and Murray dare to reveal their belief that it is intelligence levels, not environmental circumstances, poverty, or lack of education that are at the root of many of our social problems.
Hardcover, 845 pages
Published September 1st 1994 by The Free Press (first published 1994)
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Tim Buktu The book is not only intriguing but 20 something years after it's initial publication it appears the many of his observations are factually…moreThe book is not only intriguing but 20 something years after it's initial publication it appears the many of his observations are factually correct...just as Moynihan's 'The Case for the Negro Family' was 50 years after it was first published.(less)

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Seth
Jan 09, 2008 Seth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the book fearful that it was politically incorrect to entertain alternative viewpoints regarding intellectual equality. I finished the book remaining skeptical of some of the more controversial conclusions about distribution of IQ among different ethnicities. Evidently, there are many skeptics that have raised some legitimate questions about the authors' research. That said, The Bell Curve has persuaded me that heredity has at least some role in intelligence and that IQ is not just a resu ...more
Eric_W
Dec 28, 2008 Eric_W rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-affairs
minor editing 3/10/10

One would hope that decisions are made based on solid evidence and a modicum of rational thought. Often that is not the case, however Sometimes rehashed data and superficial analysis, particularly in the area of social policy, appeal to society because they reflect changes in society's perceptions of reality To some extent that explains the popularity of The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. There seems to be an unconscious desire to locate society's ills
...more
E
Dec 28, 2010 E rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics-history
At this writing, the United States has been *officially* free of segregation, slavery, and anti-miscegenation laws for 52 of its 234 years. (Though didn't Bob Jones University only just integrate in 2000?) Apparently this is long enough to convince many that any argument bordering on racism is a radical, persecuted concept. While all political ideas - no matter how old and tired and simplistic - should indeed be entertained, challenged and debated, there is something particularly perverse about ...more
Nebuchadnezzar
What can be said about this hateful tract disguised as "science" that hasn't already been said? Herrnstein was once a respected animal psychologist who obviously went off the deep end before he died and Murray is a long-time political hack whose main qualification is being able to hold sinecures at well-funded think tanks.

The book is already based on two massive theoretical flaws, the first being that there is such a thing as general intelligence (the "g factor") which can be measured by IQ test
...more
Amador
Aug 14, 2012 Amador rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was scorned when I attended college. It took ten years after I attended to read the book. First, there is one chapter on black and white differences in I.Q. It is not very controversial basically says the average white person has a higher IQ than the average black person. Of course what makes a person black or white? I could relate this to the 100m sprint, all sprinters except one that have run under 10 seconds are of West African descent. This of course is not controversial. There are ...more
Ian Pollock
Aug 19, 2013 Ian Pollock rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the ultimate book that everybody knows is wrong, but nobody has read.

It's too bad. It's a fascinating collection of social science. We can split it up into (a) fact conclusions, (b) predictions, and (c) policy recommendations. The fact conclusions are separated from the other parts of the book and stand on their own. For me, they're the most interesting part.

The book is too expansive to summarize easily, but roughly:

(a) Fact conclusions: IQ is a neglected but extremely important variable
...more
Andrew Charles
Aug 07, 2011 Andrew Charles rated it it was amazing
A controversial and misunderstood book. It has been accused, unfairly, of supporting racism, yet the authors take pains to stress that the intelligence of an individual, not the average intelligence of an ethnic group is what effects personal ability and achievement. After all, even if you agree with the authors that individual intelligence is most strongly an inherited trait, the average intelligence of any group is highly effected by socio-economic factors, including culture, religion, opportu ...more
sologdin
Nutshell: epsilons are not trainable, so no need to spend moneys on them.

Authors contend that giving IQ tests of questionable merit to impoverished persons who are lacking medical care and nutrition, are limited in access to education, and are resident in tenements contaminated with lead and whatnot--and then comparing their results with those from people who, yaknow, aren't, is a good measure of genetic ability.

The basic thesis--that class (however improperly defined & deployed) correlates
...more
Hadrian
A book with a moderately interesting premise, horrible documentation and research practices, and terrifying conclusions.
Stephen
4.0 stars. This is a very controversial book that holds as one of its major premises that intelligence, at least in part, is determined by genetics. Thus, according to the book, Asian people are, on average, more intelligent than caucasians and caucasians are, on average, more intelligent than African Americans. Very radical and very explosive, this certainly caused a firestorm of debate when it first came out.

Without getting into any of the merits (or lack thereof) of the above premise which I
...more
Tom
Sep 27, 2008 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book created a controversy (that endures today) when it was published in the mid '90s. Many people condemned it without having read it because it presented a thesis, backed with evidence, that blatantly violated the strictures of the nascent politically correct culture that now reigns in our society. Those who find this book's ideas convincing will often be branded with the scarlet "R" (racist), by people who are offended enough by the book's very existence that they fear to pick it up, muc ...more
Emily
Dec 21, 2008 Emily rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Gosh this book still makes me mad - appallingly bad science, manipulation of statistics, reaching conclusions that aren't warranted by the data, all in the name of "proving" that people are poor b/c they lack intelligence.
Full disclosure - I haven't read the entire book, only a few chapters that we read in a psych class senior year of college. However, out of the chapters we read, every single claim they made was flawed. Reading bullshit science pisses me off in general, but it is even worse whe
...more
Jonnie Enloe
Aug 25, 2011 Jonnie Enloe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
It is totally politically incorrect to even read this book anymore much less give it any praise. But it is one of my favorite books. Statistics do not lie. And this book sheds light on unmentionable subjects about race that just infuriate people. I am not a racist but I still want to know the problems. If I don't know the problems to be corrected, how can I correct them or add my voice to those trying to correct them. Some people would simply rather bury this information and stick their heads in ...more
Russell Hayes
This is another solidly researched book by Charles Murray on an interesting and pertinent social issue in America. The idea is basically that intelligence is one of the most important factors in the stratification of society.

Some chief points the authors make:

-Intelligence is substantially heritable (between 40-80%)
-An IQ score is a much better predictor of job productivity than an interview, resume, references, or college transcript. The push for universal higher education is thus ill-founded
...more
Tressie Mcphd
Jan 06, 2013 Tressie Mcphd rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
So my review is likely going to shock some.

I don't think Hernstein and Murray are racists. I think they're lost structuralists looking for a model to justify their functionalist understanding of the world. See, that's a world where functionalism is positivist and progressive and inequality is a natural function of unequal gifts, talents, abilities, and rewards. This book is phrenology 5.0 in that sense: it generates some dangerous policy smoke, makes a few people rich, and we'll do it again wit
...more
Romeu
Jan 17, 2015 Romeu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Bell Curve is actually two books in one: the first one deals with research, while the second one deals with policy. Splitting these from the start would probably have contributed to a more levelheaded and meaningful discussion of its controversial contents. Then again, that might be wishful thinking: how many of us can truly take out politics from science?


From a science perspective, and despite the firestorm that ensued the book’s publication, most of the book's base premises were not dispu
...more
Ryan
Jul 25, 2014 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: policy
This might be the best book I've ever read.

The main points of the book:
1) Society is slowly becoming more stratified into differing levels of intelligence.
2) Intelligence is a stronger predictor of social maladies than other variables (e.g. socioeconomic status, income, etc.)
3) Ethnic groups differ in their average distribution of intelligence.
4) Current social policy ignores the correlation between intelligence and social maladies, and is therefore less effective than it can be.

The concluding
...more
Jim Morrison
Feb 13, 2012 Jim Morrison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed Psychology 101 as a freshman in college and went on to study the subject beyond that. Some of the most fundamental concepts regarding individual differences, methods used by psychologists and how data is interpretative are covered in this book. This book touches on the current thinking regarding the distribution of intelligence and the Nature-Nurture problem and that is exciting. However it is much more than that because it gives us some insights on education, poverty, unemp ...more
Russell
Everyone knows the controversy this book caused.

Few will want to delve into the analysis of the numerous IQ studies. So, I suggest you skip to the last few chapters where some profound questions are asked.

Namely, is our society becoming increasingly stratified based on intelligence and education? If so, are society's policy makers creating systems, rules, and regulations which are so complicated that they become incomprehensible or seemingly inconsistent and unfair to those without the education
...more
Larry
Jan 29, 2008 Larry rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
i try to keep an open mind and read varying points of view other than my own, but this book is a scientific nightmare. based on raw data, the author tries to build a case for asians being smarter than whites who are smarter than hispanics, and everybody is smarter than black people. tell that to MLK, Ben Carson, etc. the problem with the argument is that it leaves out social, economic, and educational factors. the book is not worth reading and is dangerous in that it may provide an excuse for ra ...more
Matthias
It's the most famous book by Murray, and most likely also his worst.
It must be noted that a lot of people attacked and still attack TBC without having really read it - the book is deeply flawed, but it's not a racial eugenics manifesto, and doesn't even focus on race.

The book was published only 4 years after the Human Genome Project started, but presented as definitive, established facts things that were not, and still aren't. The authors, who are not genetists, misrepresented the state of genet
...more
Chris
Aug 01, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book. If you could choose between being born poor and really smart or rich and really dumb (all else equal), you should choose the former for your own sake, these guys argue. This is based on a lot of assumptions that I used to reject at face value (that IQ tests and SATs aren't biased, for example, and that they are capable of testing some innate intelligence). This book ended my knee-jerk rejection of intelligence measures. The authors pick apart and defend these assumpti ...more
Delarge
Dec 26, 2010 Delarge rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The central thesis of The Bell Curve is that IQ is the principal determinant of an individual's level of economic and social success in post-industrial societies. The authors describe some of the factors that have served to strengthen the relationship between IQ and earnings over the past century and present numerous data demonstrating the importance of this measurement across a wide range of dimensions. In spite of the controversy that this book generated, particularly the sections dealing with ...more
Michael
Aug 20, 2007 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People that have trouble sleeping
Reads like a textbook. The basic idea being presented is that intelligence is hereditary, and its assertion has been supported with research.

This book seems to have generated a lot of fervent opposition which is why I also purchased The Mismeasure of Man, a direct rebuttal to Bell Curve by Stephen Jay Gould.

I haven't gotten far enough into this book to be decided on whether or not the book represents a fully valid argument, but based on what I have read so far criticisms that this book is racis
...more
Graeme Roberts
Mar 18, 2016 Graeme Roberts rated it it was amazing
"The Bell Curve" is remarkable for its rigorous analysis (a rarity in sociology), its honesty in debunking the mealy-mouthed lies and obfuscations of the romantic egalitarians, who would rather not talk about differences among human beings, and for the deep humanity and kindness it brings to these difficult issues. Charles Murray and the late Richard Herrnstein are admirable for their courage and discipline in seeing the great beauty in truth, and seeking it in the face of strident opposition.
Christopher Maricle
Yep, I actually read the whole thing. It can be technical at times, but the findings were very illuminating. Be careful about who you talk to about this book - some found it highly offensive. The authors conclusions and recommendations are sound: we need to find a place for everyone by creating public policy that addresses the varying abilities of all people.
Kaethe
Sep 06, 2011 Kaethe rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stricken
Junk science with lots of numbers to defend the age-old assertion that our society is totally fair and people who are poor have only themselves to blame. Classic eugenics attempt to confuse correlation with causation.
Brian Reagan
Jul 28, 2011 Brian Reagan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The lessons are there and the facts indisputible....but alas social policy is not driven by research, fact, or legitimate science
Jonathon
Sep 30, 2014 Jonathon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The more I read this book, the more I realize I am dumb...Apparently I have the lowest IQ and am considered "Mentally Retarded". Folks with low IQ include (but are not limited to) alcoholism (check), low income/long bouts of unemployment (check), and laziness (check). I have them all! The triple package!

I don't think this should be a point of pride...

If you are low IQ'd and have the attention span of a squirrel like myself, you can simply read the tables and graphs which appear every 5 pages or
...more
Bill Leach
Apr 07, 2013 Bill Leach rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: informative
1 - Cognitive Class and Education
- proportion of people getting college degrees increased 15 x from 1900 to 1990
- the students going to college are being selected more efficiently for their IQ
- Harvard changed dramatically from 1950 when the ability of students was similar to the general population to 1960 when the SAT scores averaged almost 100 points higher
- the % of high school grads in the top IQ quartile going to college rose from 55% in 1950 to 75% in 1965
- the IQ of college grads is a sta
...more
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“How good a predictor of job productivity is a cognitive test score compared to a job interview? Reference checks? College transcript? The answer, probably surprising to many, is that the test score is a better predictor of job performance than any other single measure. This is the conclusion to be drawn from a meta-analysis on the different predictors of job performance, as shown in the table below.” 0 likes
“Cognitive sorting continues from the time that students enter college to the time they get a degree” 0 likes
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